There's no beating the French when it comes to culinary courses and fashion

Culture in Your Course

Every December, the 750-year-old Paris-Sorbonne University witnesses scores of students streaming into its grand hall with a buttery croissant in one hand and an espresso in the other for their graduation ceremony. "The British might have invented the graduation ceremony with their black cloaks and caps, but the French are the ones who made it posh," says Smiti Ghosh, 25, a graduate from Paris-Sorbonne University. She adds, "In France, everything is artistic and it's common to find students sitting on 13th century stools, dangling a second-hand Prada handbag. The zest to add style to life, be it a piece of bread or an ornate painting, is what drew me to France."

Like Ghosh, Indians have been increasingly considering French universities for higher education. According to data provided by Campus France in India-an official body that represents all French universities in nine centres across India-around 3,000 Indian students enrolled at French universities in 2011, a number that has been growing over the last five years. Various reasons have contributed to the growing popularity of French universities among Indians. The number of scholarships available for Indian students has gone up along with a 40 per cent increase in the number of courses taught in English in French universities. According to the French Embassy in India, in 2011-2012, more than 300 scholarships were awarded to Indian students, as opposed to less than half that number 10 years ago.


Secondly, the French Embassy in India has set up Campus France, a special student forum which offers free counselling. Students get access to first-hand knowledge on visas, French language exams, university applications, housing, employment opportunities and scholarships available.

France has also signed around 30 memoranda of understanding with Indian institutes for student and research exchanges. Many French institutes are looking to establish a branch in India to help Indians get better acquainted with the French style of living.

"We are looking at setting up more academic partnerships between France and India," says Minister of higher education and research, France.

Paris, voted by QS World University Rankings as the world's best student city in 2012, attracts the largest numbers of Indian students. Lyon, Toulouse, Montpellier and Lille are other popular destinations. Degrees in MBA, fashion, art, wine and food are most sought-after by students who want to study in France.

Home to some of the world's best haute couture labels such as Chanel, Balenciaga, Dior and Givenchy, it is little wonder that so many fashion students flock to France every year. "France lives, breathes and resonates art and fashion. For a designer or artist, there is no better country to visit for inspiration and motivation," says Nivedita Saboo, fashion designer and an alumnus of NIFT, Delhi.

Known as one of the best culinary schools in the world, Le Cordon Bleu in Paris is every chef's dream. "After doing hotel management in India, I felt the need to specialise. What one learnt in four months at the Le Cordon Bleu was more than what my undergraduate degree had taught me in three years. It was here that I moved into the world of culinary media, food styling and handling cookery shows such as Masterchef India," says Mumbai-based Michael Swamy, food stylist, writer and chef.

  Students from over 150 countries visit Paris each year for higher education.

France also excels in the field of management. INSEAD France is one of the top business schools in the world and alumni here have the unique opportunity to access job databases from Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School and Kellogg School of Management. But it's not just the traditional full-time MBA programmes that one can pursue in France. Wine management, hospitality management, HR management and project management are popular alternatives. "I love food and wine. With over 27 wine regions, a management degree in France made perfect sense to me," says Magandeep Singh, who completed his master's in hospitality management from Institut Vatel, Nîmes, and postgraduate diploma in wine tasting from L'Universite du Vin, Suze-La-Rousse in France.
An engineering student from Purdue University celebrates on his graduation day.
Perhaps the only drawback of studying in France continues to be the language barrier. "Knowing French will not only make your adjustment easier but throw open more employment opportunities as well," adds Singh. Luckily, there are many language classes for students to prepare themselves in India ahead of time. Alliance Française has 15 branches across the country that provide short-term French courses for all levels of proficiency.

With lower tuition fees than the US and the UK, excellent industry exposure and some of the oldest academic institutions in Europe, France is definitely an option to keep in mind for your higher education.